Today is Father’s Day, with all of the commercial hoopla that usually accompanies American holidays. Love your father? Prove it by spending money. Publish your advertising saying “Happy Father’s Day! Come spend money with us!”
Here’s the thing: for many of us, there is no “happy” in Father’s Day. I lost my father when he died a year and a half ago. But in a larger sense, I had lost him several years before that, when I was outed to him as being transgender. This turned out to be a larger truth than his parochial worldview could encompass, and he cut off all contact with me. That was his interpretation of Biblical scripture: no matter what Jesus said about love, my father decided instead to follow a vaguely-worded Old Testament verse and disowning me completely.
But the time came when he reached out to me in an attempt at reconciliation. We spoke for over an hour on thee telephone, and concluded by saying we loved each other. That was our last time: he died four days later.
If there’s a point to all of this, I think it’s this: don’t give up on love. Don’t give up on your parents, don’t give up on your children. And don’t base your acceptance of each other on the words of primitive sheepherders who thought everything they couldn’t explain was attributable to gods.
Remember, these people didn’t even know where the sun went at night.
Every Death Is Different
My parents died 32 years apart, and I’m finding it interesting how different their deaths are. Or, to be accurate, how different my reactions are.
Because they’re truly different. I’m sure most of the differences lie in the fact that I’m not the person I was three decades ago. Then, I was much you get and had little first-hand experience with death. Know I’m older, and have lost more friends and relatives than I can easily count. So I guess the biggest change is that death is no longer the shock it used to be.
Another difference is that I had time to prepare myself for my mother’s death. She had fought cancer for so long that when she died, it wasn’t unexpected. Painful, yes. Devastatingly so. But I had had so long to prepare myself that it wasn’t a shock. And in a way, since she had been in such pain for so long, it was a relief.
It was different with my father. We had been estranged for years, only reconciling the week before his death. I knew that he had had a stroke, but I hadn’t been aware of how much his health continued to deteriorate in the following year. And unlike with my mother, I hadn’t had the opportunity to tell him all the things I wanted to say. I never got the chance to tell him how much he meant to me, and what an honor it had been to be his daughter.
And Every Death Is The Same
Sadness. Anger. Disbelief. Numbness. I felt all of these following my parents’ deaths. What I feel now, as I am writing, is a dull ache for my mother, but a sharp, stabbing pain for my father. I know that over time this pain will become the same dull ache that I feel for my mother. And I also know that it will never go away. But that’s okay; I don’t want it to go away. I want it to remind me of the two people who loved me more than anyone ever did.
Because if there is one thing I have learned over the years, it is this: no matter who else they meet in their lives, no one will ever love your children as much as you, their parent, does.